October 6, 2022

Dinner to Your Door

Northern Michigan meal kits are making dinner time easier
By Anna Faller | Aug. 13, 2022

If you ask us, fast food gets a bad rap. In the locavore paradise that is northern Michigan, gone are the days of paper-thin burgers and wilted, fryer-oil fries. Here, we introduce you to the best in ready-made dinner fixes with no extra assembly (or oven!) required—and definitely no disappointing fries. Tuck in!

Mel & Fell: Just Enough Cooks in the Kitchen
As the brains (and brawn!) behind Mel & Fell, a local gourmet delivery service, power-couple Tim and Melanie Griffith have based their life’s work on nourishing others.

Their story begins in 2003, when their paths crossed while working in metro Detroit. “We met at the Beverly Hills Grill, where I was a waitress, and Tim was a cook,” Melanie says. The two worked together for nearly a decade, eventually overseeing the space as front-of-house manager and sous chef, respectively. In 2011, they decided it was time for a change.

“As Tim says, man wasn’t made to look at concrete,” says Melanie. So, the pair packed up and moved Up North—their longtime summer holiday spot and overall favorite place to be—where they landed in local kitchens, including a handful of area hot spots, like Amical and Trattoria Stella.

But as those in the industry know, hospitality often has a ceiling. “When you’ve worked for different companies and learned so much, there’s nowhere to go but try your own thing,” says Melanie. For Melanie and Tim, that thing was crafting their own cuisine. “I enjoy gardening, and I was doing [that] and other farm side jobs,” she says, “so we tried to get ourselves out there to do private catering.”

From there, Mel & Fell was born. The meal delivery service offers “local gourmet at home” with fully cooked, heat-and-serve style meals brought straight to your front porch. Now in their fourth year of business, Mel & Fell make delivery arrangements in Leelanau, Benzie, and Grand Traverse counties.

To get in on the drool-worthy action, clients sign up with an email, to which they receive the menu each Friday. “[The menu] is also updated on our website each week, so [guests] can email us, as well,” says Melanie. Patrons have until the end of the day Sunday to order in preparation for Wednesday delivery (or Thursday for those in Grand Traverse County), though clients can also elect to pick up their orders.

Unlike most subscription services, Mel & Fell’s plates are priced separately, which lets clients order whenever they’d like. “We have about 10-15 people that order from us week to week,” Melanie says, “but we also have [seasonal] clients who order for two weeks at a time, and then we won’t hear from them for a year.”

In fact, the only “commitment” Mel & Fell ask is a $20 delivery minimum, because transit cost for a quart of soup doesn’t make a lot of sense. “We try to keep everything reasonably priced,” Tim explains. “It has to be worth our, and that person’s, time.”

With an ever-changing array of locally-focused recipes, Mel & Fell consciously craft their plates to be as approachable as possible. “We truly try to be allergy and diet-conscious and be clear [about that] on the menu,” says Tim. As such, their offerings often feature gluten-free and soy-free alternatives, as well as dedicated vegetarian options. Each menu always includes three entrees in addition to a soup and salad selection (headlined by a grain bowl in the summer) and at least two desserts, courtesy of Melanie’s baking genius.

Within that general outline, Tim and Melanie tend to cook what they crave. “We have go-to flavors we like to use,” says Tim, including nods to their European roots (think Russian and Polish fare in the winter), as well as the southern Asian eats that aren’t as accessible upstate. “These are the major influences in our lives, our region, and our cooking,” he says.

As for of-the-moment ingredients? That’s for the season to decide. “Our inspiration is very seasonal, because it’s how we’ve come up in restaurants,” says Melanie. This means lighter summer fare, including a swell of stone-fruit when it’s available (peaches and cherries make repeat appearances), as well as berry-studded salads and pies and all the springtime asparagus our taste buds can fathom. In the winter, Tim and Melanie shift their focus to warming stews and hearty starches—not to mention Tim’s famous risotto, which hits the spot in any weather. “We just try to take advantage of the produce when it’s fresh,” he says.

And it doesn’t get fresher than locally-grown. In fact, two-thirds of Mel & Fell’s produce is local, much of which comes from nearby farms. “We always loved local farm stands when we’d come up, and they’re still so prevalent and popular,” says Melanie. As such, the pair are avid supporters of family-run farms around the region, including The Lively Farm and Lost Lake Farm (in Burdickville and Honor, respectively). They also frequent Second Spring Farm (Cedar), especially for large catering events, as well as Lakeview Hill Farm in Traverse City.

“I like that [using] local products forces me to constantly rethink the menu,” says Tim. “There’s so much produce here, and what we’re trying to do is [encourage people to] think about it in more than just one style of food.”

Mel & Fell’s menu prices range from approximately $15-$22 per item. They are also available for private catering events. Find Mel & Fell at melandfell.com, or call at (248) 346-3449.

Oryana Community Co-Op: Dinner for Two
Fast food also gets a conscientious face-lift at Oryana Community Co-Op. Inspired largely by the rise in take-out dining brought on by the pandemic—not to mention a decade of holiday cooking—Oryana’s “Dinner for Two” to-go meals are available at both West and 10th Street locations.

“There was a demand for something simple,” says 10th Street’s Culinary Manager, Danielle Tiedeck. “People were really interested in something that was easy to grab.”

It doesn’t get simpler than fridge-to-fork. Conveniently packed in a take-away bag—in eco-friendly containers, no less—each meal combines a house-made entrée with a selection of veggie-centric sides. As per the co-op’s high sourcing standards, nearly all of the kitchen’s ingredients meet local, organic, or non-GMO benchmarks. And if you don’t see the option you’re after? Just ask.

“They’re easy to put together,” says West’s Culinary Assistant Manager, Kaleb Baughman, “so if someone wants one and we don’t have it, we can usually whip one up for them.”

Launched in February 2021 at Oryana’s 10th Street location, the Dinner for Two program comprises two prix fixe selections. Guests can choose from the “Fiesta Bag”—that’s a local chicken quesadilla served with a trio of accouterments (cilantro-lime sour cream, fresh pico de gallo, and a guacamole-based “fiesta” dip) with Garden of Eatin’ blue corn chips—or the ethically-sourced beef lasagna, served with light and citrusy Caesar salad and finished with plenty of Parmesan and homemade dressing.

The same structure applies at Oryana West, though it has adapted based on customer demand. “Customers could have their voices heard, and Dinner for Two was a [program] they wanted to stay,” says Baughman. “So, we continued it, but with our own twist.”

Since then, the concept has exploded with a host of grab-and-go options, including the long-awaited reinstatement of Oryana West’s salad bar, as well as the implementation of their house quiche program.

Featuring four pre-packaged kits, Oryana West rotates their offerings in accordance with season and product availability; the meatloaf, however, is a mainstay. A classic script studded with red bell peppers and drizzled with a tangy glaze, this dish is served alongside garlic-roasted Brussels sprouts (a bona fide favorite of Oryana regulars) and buttery mashed russet potatoes.

The rest of the menu is a compilation of the co-op’s greatest grab-and-go hits. For an easy, family-friendly choice, Oryana paired its coconut chicken tenders—which they coat with crunchy panko and fry—with cheddar-smothered twice-baked potatoes and a farm-fresh garden salad. A team of dueling lasagnas rounds out Oryana West’s selections; guests can choose from a beef lasagna (complete with ricotta cheese and marinara), or a hearty spinach version to satisfy vegetarian diets.

“[The program] is a really nice thing for the community,” says Tiedeck. “[Not only] is it a chance for us to be creative, but food really feeds us in times of need. It’s good for our bellies, but also our hearts and our souls.”

Dinner for Two to-go meals at Oryana West are $21.99 per bag and approximately $25 at Oryana 10th Street. Both locations also offer a separate selection of pre-plated holiday meals, featuring ingredients and preparations in accordance with season. Please contact each location for more information. Find Oryana West at 3587 Marketplace Cir., Traverse City. (231) 486-2491; and Oryana 10th Street at 260 E. Tenth St., Traverse City. (231) 947-0191. oryana.coop

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